Searching For Sugar Man - DVD Review

 'There's nothing wrong though with talking heads if the content being discussed is compelling and Bendjelloul does at least allow one suspect individual to create enough suspicion around which to hang himself.'

Sporting a fiction-influenced style which more and more documentaries seem to be adopting, Malik Bendjelloul's Searching For Sugar Man is a film that holds back a number of its entertaining riffs until the final third. Is there much wrong with this? There's some sense of the facts being manipulated, but the entertainment value is hard to argue with and Bendjelloul will doubtless point to his adherence to chronology in order to tell his story. It just so happens that the chronology here is gigantic point of what makes the story of Dylan-like singer Rodriguez all the more amazing.

Rumours abound through Bendjelloul's film about mysterious subject's death. Disappointed at his career performance to date, the politicised singer set himself alight at the conclusion of his final gig. The next interviewee steps up; 'no you've got it all wrong, he pulled out a gun and shot himself'. With this level of uncertainty, Bendjelloul needs to go somewhere meaningful fast, something which he has mastered. The snappy pace of Sugar Man's miniscule eighty-six minutes is one of its greatest assets, yet never does it feel like we're rattling through too quickly.

Considering the structure is brave, at least in how comfortable it feels letting us discover things off our own backs, the presentation is, largely, fairly safe. There's nothing wrong though with talking heads if the content being discussed is compelling and Bendjelloul does at least allow his contributors the freedom to turn and put a record on or, in the case of one suspect individual in Rodriguez's career, create enough suspicion around which to hang himself.

It builds effectively to the reveals during the final third, which feel somewhat staged managed (who's that lurking behind an unopen window... could it be... wait, they're opening the window...) but do certainly have power and import. If anything this is a film which, in this day of cheap air travel and super-connected internet lives, speaks to our isolationism, our lack of knowledge, our ability to avoid and ignore things of beauty and talent. A fantastic documentary, made with some significant skill and purpose.




Searching For Sugar Man is released on UK DVD and Blu-ray on Thursday 27th December 2012.

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